By Deana Lockman, Deputy Director- Operations
As I was watching the Cleveland Indians go on their improbable 22 game winning streak this season, I began to think about all the amazing records that we celebrate here at Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. Not only do we have historic memorabilia on display and in our collection, but we've also had a terrific relationship with many of the players who’ve set some of the most impressive records in baseball. In fact, we’ve even been lucky enough to honor some of them with our Living Legend Award.
Ted Williams played his first major league season in 1939. Two years later, he would accomplish what no player since has been able to do. Williams was the last player to hit over .400 in a single season when he hit .406 in 1941. Many baseball fans would argue that no one will ever hit over .400 in a single season again. After 76 years, it seems like a solid argument.
The Splendid Splinter not only holds a special place in baseball history, but he also holds one in the history of our company as well. As you can see in the photo below, Ted Williams would visit the bat factory often during his playing days. Legend has it, he would tip the hand turner to ensure he would get the very best grade of wood for his bats. Even late in his career, Williams was still helping develop bat models with us. He created the W183 in 1955, five years before he retired in 1960.
Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is one of the most famous records held by any athlete in any sport. Any baseball fan will know what you mean when you say, “The Streak.” For two straight months, in 1941, Joe DiMaggio hit the baseball in every single game. He broke Willie Keeler’s record of 44 straight on July 2, but kept on going for 11 more games, with the streak finally coming to an end on July 17 against Cleveland.
DiMaggio signed a contract to use Louisville Slugger bats in 1933. We have the third of the three bats he used during his 56-game streak on display in our main gallery. For more on DiMaggio's hitting streak record, here is an article chronicling the impressive accomplishment.
A great hitter in his own right, Cal Ripken Jr. is considered the “Iron Man” of baseball and holds the record for most consecutive games. Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 games on September 6, 1995. I’ll never forget watching the future Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Living Legend round the bases after belting a homerun in the third inning of the game against the Angels. It was quite a spectacle! When the game became official in the fifth inning, it was one of the most poignant moments in sports history. That he accomplished the feat in front of his home fans in Baltimore, made it even more powerful.
It was another three years before Ripken missed a game. He ended his streak with 2,632 consecutive games played. A Louisville Slugger contract player since 1978, Ripken also holds the record for most homeruns by a shortstop with 345. Many credit Cal Ripken as being the catalyst that brought people back to baseball after the 1994 strike. His attitude, dedication, and tireless effort embodied everything we wanted and needed in a hero. While his consecutive games record may truly be unbreakable, his ability to inspire, and remind us all what makes baseball so special, may be his greatest legacy. The night Cal Ripken, Jr. became the “Iron Man” of baseball, I fell in love with the game.
One could argue that a record is only unbreakable until it’s broken. In 2009 we honored Hank Aaron as Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory’s Living Legend. Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record for most career homeruns on April 8, 1974. Many thought his 755 homeruns would stand the test of time. Then in 2007, his record was beaten. It’s such a thrilling moment when a player achieves the unachievable; when they break the unbreakable record. When I see someone display the drive and determination to be the best at what they do, it inspires me to do a little better in every aspect of my life. I’m sure it does for many others as well.